From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.The inequality the conservatives want is a social inequality, not a financial one. A financial inequality is merely the means for individuals in a commercial society to achieve the social inequality.
The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocrats are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and holding office. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.
It is this social inequality that conservatives work so hard to assert. Their belief in their innate superiority is the reason why they can dismiss their critics while expecting people to defer to their instructions and guidance without criticism. This attitude is the polar opposite of the democratic idea that all people are equal. Whenever you hear a person arguing that people are NOT equal, they all have their degrees of superiority and inferiority, that person is a conservative who considers himself better than most others.
Sen. Joe Lieberman considers that his three terms in the Senate and his position as Vice Presidential candidate with Al Gore in 2000 demonstrates his superiority to the rest of us. That was why he got so angry when the Connecticut Democrats did not renominate him for his fourth term, and why Joe abandoned the Democratic Party and ran as an independent. He went to Washington 18 years ago, and has ceased to believe in the equality of men. He is no longer a democrat.
Friday Digby continues his discussion of conservative aristocracy:
When Bush got all snippy with Jim Webb, George Will distorted the quote precisely to highlight Webb’s supposed lack of deference.This is why the Republican conservatives are so ready to denigrate or put down their opponents, but react so huffily when anyone criticizes them. The conservatives have trained the media to react this way for them by threatening to call the media "liberally biased."
All the Beltway 500 code words - Civil, Dignified, Ungracious - for trashing Democrats and preventing them from saying what needs to be said have to do with Republicans reinforcing this fundamental aristocratic value of deference.
It’s the same deal with Civil, Moderate, and Bipartisan, words which are also code words for reinforcing deference.
That’s why it’s important to mock, belittle, insult, degrade and make Republicans laughable at all times and in all conditions. These are all tools for eliminating deference from our political discourse.
Naturally, when we do this, the Beltway 500 clutches its pearls and calls us Shrill or Rude. That’s a good sign: It means we’re displaying the lack of deference appropriate a Democracy.
It's why the Washington pundits are calling critics of the Republicans "shrill" and "extremist" and now that the Democrats have defeated the Republicans in an election, they are demanding that the Democrats prove how "centrist" they are. "Centrist" means deferring to the conservatives, even when they are wrong.
The function of the conservatives is to train the American culture to practice the traditional ideas of deference to aristocracy. Bush worked this as hard as he could by working only with his base. That was how they do it when they are in the majority and run the government. Suddenly they have visibly screwed things up so badly that the voters have effectively provided a vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party. So now they will demand that the Democrats defer to the conservatives out of power by compromise - by becoming "Centrists."
This is just more of the retraining of society they have been working on since 1968. They are wrong to do it, the Democrats will be wrong to let them try, and the Democrats need to begin retraining society back to what the majority of Americans believe.
And what is that? It's that Americans are all equal. We will defer only to men who present their ideas to all of us, face the criticism, and we will empower only the the better ideas to be implemented by their presenters.
Democrats need to return to being Progressives.
Addendum Dec 12, 2006 11:32 PM CST
Here is another example of Republicans planting stories to trivialize Democratic leaders. Along with serious stories comes a characterization of the types of fashion each favors. Soon, if someone says "Pelosi" everyone thinks first of "Armani."
The implication is that fashion is what non-serious people like Paris Hilton are concerned with, not serious issues like grown-up Republicans. Or as Digby describes it:
These fashion "stories" are planted by snotty GOP operatives to trivialize (and feminize) Democrats. All these liberals are a bunch of flaming metrosexual fashionistas, don't you know, thinking about their looks all the time, staring in the mirror, spending tons of money on their appearances. (Remember "Christophe" and the 300 dollar haircut? John Kerry and the botox?)Exactly. As Digby says "This is not an accident or a coincidence, I guarantee it." This is a way of manipulating the voting public so that they will ignore what is said by Democrats and worse, ignore the evidence of corruption, stupidity and incompetence demonstrated repeatedly by the Republicans in government.
Democrats are nothing but a bunch of bitches and girlie-men, haven't you heard? This is not an accident or a coincidence, I guarantee it.
When someone suggests you move the curtain aside and observe the little man behind it, the curtain is made up of implications like this, that the person telling you to look behind the curtain is not a serious person to be listened to.